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When building its $US2.6 billion Koodaideri iron ore mine Rio Tinto will be giving a section of its vital rail link to Dampier special attention — it runs through the Wittenoom asbestos management area.
The 166km railway will have a 19km section through the asbestos management area, 4.9km of which is in a partially contaminated control area.
Rio Tinto has planned a multitude of precautions for the control area to protect workers and prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.
A Rio Tinto spokesman said its top priority was the safety and wellbeing of workers and the community.
He said the company’s Koodaideri asbestos environmental management plan would be made public before construction started next year.
Before construction in the rail corridor, contaminants and top soil will be stripped, stockpiled and covered in a crusting agent to stop dust spreading.
Workers at this early stage will wear respiratory protection and carry personal asbestos monitors. More monitors will be positioned around the site.
The spokesman said that within the cleared work corridor the railway and access track would typically be constructed 2m above ground level.
Culverts will allow floodwaters that may carry asbestos fibres to pass underneath the railway and track. Fencing of the control area will be completed at the end of construction.
Once the railway is operating any work done outside the elevated area, such as maintaining the culverts, will be done with respiratory protection and personal asbestos monitors, as used in the initial clearing.
The spokesman said the railway had been designed for autonomous trains that were less likely to derail.
If a train was derailed all work would occur under safety procedures designed for contaminated sites where the ground had been disturbed.
The Koodaideri rail line, that passes within about 3km of the Wittenoom township, is not the first railway through the asbestos management area.
A Fortescue line to the Solomon mine traverses 8km of the area about 15km from the town.
The Shire of Ashburton is responsible for the Wittenoom asbestos management area.
Shire president Kerry White said the cost had become a burden for the shire.
Two weeks ago she wrote to the Premier asking for the State Government to take over responsibility for the area. The shire is waiting for a response.
This article first appeared on thewest.com.au
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